The Tradeoffs of Trade Policy

Critical Thinking Questions

What are some examples of innovative products that have disrupted their industries for the better?

In principle, the benefits of international trade to a country exceed the costs, no matter whether the country is importing or exporting. In practice, it is not always possible to compensate the losers in a country, for example, workers who lose their jobs due to foreign imports. In your opinion, does that mean that trade should be inhibited to prevent the losses?

Economists sometimes say that protectionism is the “second-best” choice for dealing with any particular problem. What they mean is that there is often a policy choice that is more direct or effective for dealing with the problem—a choice that would still allow the benefits of trade to occur. Explain why protectionism is a “second-best” choice for:

  1. helping workers as a group
  2. helping industries stay strong
  3. protecting the environment
  4. advancing national defense

Trade has income distribution effects. For example, suppose that because of a government-negotiated reduction in trade barriers, trade between Germany and the Czech Republic increases. Germany sells house paint to the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic sells alarm clocks to Germany. Would you expect this pattern of trade to increase or decrease jobs and wages in the paint industry in Germany? The alarm clock industry in Germany? The paint industry in Czech Republic? The alarm clock industry in Czech Republic? What has to happen for there to be no increase in total unemployment in both countries?

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